Shockingly and sadly, I see the ‘Re-active’ approach all the time. How can this be when your largest customers are providing the lion’s share of revenue for your company? Consider the following consequences of a re-active approach:
- Leaving money on the table due to lack of strategic account planning that is proven to lead to growth of your most important customers.
- Putting your company at risk with a disproportionate amount of revenue tied up with a small number of customers without a pro-active account management structure to retain those customers. (I.e. 80% or more of your company’s revenue tied up with 20% of your clients.)
- Missing out on the opportunity to attract new customers through impressive references and case studies that should be associated with banner accounts.
- The embarrassment of your competitor snatching the account out from under you because they had a strategic approach.
Caught up in the excitement of closing a major account, many companies forget to ask, “What do we need to do to retain them? How should we interact with them going forward to ensure we keep their business?”
Whether you’re a small company, mid-sized company or work for a large company yourself, if you land a ‘whale size’ customer they will expect more. More resources, more attention and support, and more expertise.
I recommend that you analyze and rank your top customers and then determine the support investments you’re willing to make for each level. For example, your top tier (which might only include one account or maybe many accounts) could qualify for: a dedicated account manager, an executive sponsor from your company, and access to all top-notch resources.
Example of a Pro-Active Account Management Framework:
A proactive account management framework, co-developed with your customer, is essential to drive desired results. At a minimum, the joint development of a shared plan (i.e., partnership plan) should include several elements:
Alignment of goals and more – the objective of this part of the plan is for each party to share their goals, mission, and vision to identify their shared vision, mission, and goals.
Rules of engagement – this is developed to agree on the points of engagement (i.e., who, what, where, and when). In other words, how will you work together?
Relationship plan – the purpose of this part of the plan is to identify the who’s who from the customer side and the supplier side to align like roles within both organizations. The relationship plan can include a primary contact and secondary contact if helpful. It’s important to include executive relationships in the plan.
Meeting plan – the benefit of outlining a pro-active and predictable meeting calendar approach (see below example) is to have regular communication and progress towards goals and priorities:
Monthly Status Meetings
- Core agenda to cover immediate opportunities, issues, 30-45 day initiative focus, and action item review
- Attendees – Day-to-day contacts
Quarterly Review and Planning Meetings
- Core agenda to review the plan (progress and results), next level priorities, set milestones, and action item review
- Attendees – Day-to-day contacts and other interested parties or stakeholders
Annual Strategic Visioning Meetings
- Core agenda to focus on strategic account planning for the upcoming year – review accomplishments (executive dashboard) and set new direction and priorities
- Attendees – Executive Sponsors and others as appropriate
Putting the correct focus and investments around your biggest account will always pay big dividends.
Lisa Magnuson is the author of The TOP Seller Advantage: Powerful Strategies to Build Long-Term Executive Relationships. She is also the Founder/CEO of Top Line Sales, a company focused on helping Sales VP’s develop and close their largest prospects and retain and grow their most important existing accounts. Contact her at www.toplinesales.com.